Once again a man is seen running with all his might towards the police station. Arriving there almost breathless, he gasps out, “Come, come. Blackball is drunk and raging mad. Come quickly, or he will kill somebody.”
Five policemen instantly prepare themselves for what they know by experience will be dangerous work, and snatching hold of a strong rope and the leg-irons, hurry away to the scene of uproar. The crowd gladly open out to give them way. The moment Blackball sees them he raises his giant form, swings round his powerful arm, gnashes his teeth, and in oaths deep and loud threatens death to the first man who dares to touch him. For a moment the police stand at bay. A signal is given, and all rush upon the monster;
hats roll on the ground, patches of coats, belts, waistcoats, and shirts fly in the air; the struggle is fearful, but at last the terrible disturber of the public peace lies writhing on the ground, roped, and ironed, and gagged; then amidst the pity, laughter, and shouts of the following multitude, he is dragged at the tail of a cart, foaming, cursing, and blaspheming until he arrives at the lockups, covered with wounds, and scars, and blood. “Who is he? who is he?” was again and again shouted from the tops of coaches, open windows, shop doors, and warehouses.
It is Joseph Taylor, it is Blackball, it is Job Morley, for he went by all these names, but the last is the true one. In his early days he resided near Holmfirth, in Yorkshire. He had a drunken, ungodly father, but a kind, loving mother, who sometimes took him to the house of prayer. He copied the example of his father, and became a reckless, wild young man. Idleness and drunkenness produced their usual fruit. Sooner than work he became a gambler and a thief, and excelled in all manner of wickedness, moving from town to town, from county to county, to escape the hands of the police who followed in his track. While in Lancashire he became a soldier, and his regiment removed to Ireland. His conduct was so bad in the army that he had to be severely punished. This made him desperate, and in his wrath he deserted, changed his name to Joseph Taylor, and now became a wanderer and vagabond on the face of the earth, rambling and roaming from place to place, gambling, begging, and stealing. He married while in Ireland, and brought his wife over to England. How any woman would knowingly marry such a man seems strange, but it was soon evident they were well paired, they were “Jack and Jill”, for like and like somehow get together. In the various parts through which they rambled Morley found in the lodging houses daring, idle pedlars and tramps, ready for any or every description of villany, and by arrangement, eight local organisations of thieves and robbers were formed in eight different districts, of which Morley was captain. All goods stolen were to be conveyed to him, the thief receiving a
percentage. Job also became a ringleader of poachers, and in one of the fierce night battles with gamekeepers, near Rotherham, he was left in the ditch for dead. In another terrible encounter in which a keeper was killed, Morley, with others, was tried for murder at Nottingham, and narrowly escaped being hanged. Thinking that Sheffield would answer as the centre of operations, he took up his residence there in a miserable house in Duke Street, where he commenced business as dealer in hens, cocks, ducks, turkeys, pigeons, &c. Some he bought and kept as stock in trade, to ward off suspicion, but most business was done in naked fowls, or goods never shown to the public, for he knew that plucked birds tell no tales. The house and mysterious back shed of Job Morley was a strange medley of cackling, crowing, screaming animals by day, and drunken, swearing, gambling scenes by night.
In all Morley’s maraudings, plunderings, receiving and disposing of stolen property, he was never caught, and though he knew the inside of many prisons, in many counties from Bodmin to York he never had on a felon’s dress. Drunkenness, assault and battery were his general crimes. He never fell into the hands of the police, or the meshes of the law, but his wife was instantly by his side. She would carry him food in gaol, if permitted, remain with him in the cell all night, or sit lonely on the prison step, sometimes speaking through the keyhole to cheer him up by her presence. When brought before the magistrate or judge, for drunkenness and violence, or under suspicion of graver deeds, she obtained for him the best defence by employing the cleverest counsel, regardless of cost. Whatever she might be in other respects she rescued her reckless husband from many consequences arising from his crimes.
His drunken debaucheries were carried on with a daring that marked all his other actions; and the reaction when becoming sober, and when the brain was reeling under the bewildering, maddening effects of drink was terrible. He, like many other drunkards, would weep like a child, laugh like an idiot, scream like a maniac, or roar like a bull; he would screech, howl, yell, and spit at the phantoms that were following at his heels, or dancing round his bed. Once, when nearly recovered from a fit of “blues”, or delirium tremens, a pot companion said to him,Â—
“Job, you had near gone to the nether region, old chap.”
“Nether region,” replied Job, “nether region. Do you think I believe in either heaven or hell. God or devil? If there be a God I wish He would send the devil to me this minute.”
Did the brain just then reel again? Did the maddening effects of alcohol grasp him with a firmer grip or greater force? Job’s own answer was,Â—”The room instantly filled with smoke, fire and brimstone, and mocking, grinning, fiends; the old clock on the wall seemed to speak. In my fear, terror, and agony, I cried mightily to God for mercy, cried for deliverance, cried for pardon for my fearful blasphemy, cried to Jesus Christ, my mother’s Saviour, that Jesus of whom in childhood she had often told me;
for hours I cried, until the sweat poured down my trembling body, that trembled until the bed and room shook as if shaken by an earthquake. The fire, smoke, and brimstone seemed to pass away, but still I trembled, and buried my face in the reeking bed-clothes, and though almost smothered I still cried for pardon; confessed how fearfully wicked I had been, but pleaded through the shed blood of Jesus Christ, my mother’s Saviour, for mercy, forgiveness, and peace, at last. A great change came. I rose up, dressed, and to escape the room of my horrid blasphemy, in the dead of night I went out into the street; a flood of light seemed to come down from heaven, my soul was filled with joy, and I began to shout aloud and praise God with all my might. A policeman caught
hold of me, and asked me my name; I at once replied, ‘Job Morley’.”
“Oh, indeed! you call yourself Job Morley; you are sometimes called Blackball; we know your name too well, Joseph Taylor is too often written in the police books. What fresh villany are you after now that you change your name to deceive us?”
“My true name is and always was Job Morley; I will no longer tell a lie; I feel I cannot. Oh, praise the Lord; help me to praise the Lord for His great mercy to me. My sins are pardoned, I hope you will have no more trouble with me; Oh, praise the Lord!”
Had Blackball been smashing windows, pots, or tables, or knocking down a dozen men and women in the streets, or thrashing three or four policemen, the officer would not have been surprised, but he stared with amazement, and burst out into loud laughter at the idea of Blackball praising God.
Is the day of miracles past? Do wonders, marvels, and supernatural events now transpire? Are they not the production of an exclusive and bygone age, wrought for special purposes and for special objects, no longer existing? These are questions often asked, and variously answered. Men of science, who look only at the visible world, tell us that nature’s laws are irrevocable, unalterable, unchangeable, and cannot deviate, thereby limiting the power of Him who created those laws to the narrow circle of their own conceptions. The Red Sea opening to allow the Children of Israel to escape from bondage; Joshua commanding the sun to stand still; Elijah shutting up the heavens for three years and six months, they regard as simply untrue. This they find very convenient, because it comes across their theory. They accept the works of God, but they reject His Word. But miracles are no less miracles because of their daily or hourly repetition; it requires the Hand that first performed them to control them; physical laws are subject to the law giver, but there are also moral and spiritual laws obedient to the same power. Our Lord’s miracles revealed a spiritual government then and still in operation. Evil spirits expelled and peace imparted, as in the case of the woman of Magdala, and the wild
maniac, who howled amongst the rock-hewn sepulchres of Gadara. He told the astonished multitude, who witnessed these things, that the works were divine, saying, “The Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works;” and the Father’s hand is still seen in every spiritual change in man’s soul; it is always a miracle. None but God can do this, for it is His power alone that expels wicked influences, and restores to the right mind everyone that believes. None but the renewed in heart can understand it, but of this blessed truth we have every character and degree of evidence, and Job Morley is one.
Job now became calm and thoughtful. He knew the terrible power that drink had over him; he signed the pledge, and prayed for power to keep it. When the sabbath came, he went to the house of prayer in his slouched hat, fustian swing coat, with large gaping pockets, and well-worn cord trousers, and strong, greased shoes. His mother had long been dead, but she seemed to be present and near him that day; tears poured down his cheeks, tears of thankfulness for such wonderful mercies.
Grace had already done much for Morley, but grace had more to do, for in a moment when he was off his guard, or trusting to his own strength, not watching and praying, his besetting sin again cast him down; despair gathered round him, and great was the anguish of his soul. A sympathising friend heard of his fall, took him by the hand, spoke kindly to him, and again led him to the house of prayer. After the evening service Morley, before the whole people, confessed his grievous fall, and asked for their prayers. Hard he wrestled, and many petitions ascended to heaven on behalf of the penitent; God heard his request, and again caused him to rejoice. This fall was not without its lesson for Morley. It taught him how weak he was, and how he needed the firm hold of a stronger Hand. Though he again rejoiced he rejoiced with trembling.
His home was a strange home, but he felt he ought to confess God there, and he ordered a sign to be painted with the words:_
“No Business transacted here on the Sunday.”
When the sign was put up, it caused much surprise and amusement. The police smiled, the publicans derided, the neighbours put their thumbs on their noses, the schoolboys shouted, and his own wife scorned and ridiculed him, and from this last quarter came his heaviest trials. Had saving grace changed the heart of Morley’s wife at the same time it changed his own it would have been a great mercy to them both.
The married life where soul meets soul, and, intermingling, becomes one in piety, virtue, and love, reveals to us its heavenly origin, its cloudless bliss, and primitive purity, leading back the mind to the first unsullied joys of paradise. Though sin greatly marred that peaceful scene, yet, the entwining of affectionate hearts and kindred spirits does much towards regaining the forfeited
treasure, and strange as it may seem, the more we love Him who first instituted and blessed the bond of union, the more we shall find the union one of happiness. But when heart repels heart, when souls never meet, when thought, purpose, nature, and object are wide apart; when hatreds, that would gladly dwell far as the poles asunder, are only bound together by family interests, public opinion, and legal bonds, we may look over the parapet of perdition to find a state of existence more miserable.
Morley’s wife became his bitter persecutor; she could not understand her husband becoming a saint. His oaths, curses, plundering, gambling, drinking, she understood and could join in, but to speak without swearing, reading the Bible, kneeling in prayers, attending a place of worship, and keeping the Sabbath day holy, thereby losing business, was all new. Her thin slim body contained a fierce turbulent spirit. He bore all her bitter taunts as well as he could, thankful when he could keep silent under her withering sarcasm. Speaking about her to a friend, he said, “My wife is no worse than when I married her. I knew what she was, and I might have been transported this minute but for her defending me; in many prisons she has nursed and stood by me. She takes care of the money and minds the business, and I must try and put up with this as well as I can. It is very bitter and very trying, and I fear some day losing all control over myself and murdering her. She one day wrought me up to such a pitch of madness, that my blood boiled with rage. I had just bought a new and very sharp axe for cutting up old hampers; it hung on the wall, its bright steel gleaming in the gaslight. My first impulse was to seize the axe and cleave her skull at one blow; the thought brought a cold chill on me. I clutched my hat that lay on the table, quickly left the house, and took about three miles of a walk in the country. Oh, how I prayed for help; prayed that God would never leave me to myself in my home trials, but give me power to be patient and silent whatever she might say or do; that He would change her heart and open her eyes, that we might live together in peace. Several days after that fearful night she began again. She seemed to have collected against the chapel, my meetings, and friends, all the filthy stinging words a mouth could utter. For a time my patience held out; when she got to the worst I was drawing a bucket full of water to give drink to the pony, I turned the whole pail of water over her, leaving the bucket on her head, and walked away without speaking a word. The cold drench caused her to sob two or three times, then she dashed the pail on the floor, ran up stairs, stripped, went to bed, and remained there a fortnight, without speaking to me one word. I was quiet from her tongue fourteen days, but not quiet in my conscience; I had done wrong. Our dear Master tells us not to be revenged, but to rejoice when all manner of evil is spoken against us falsely for His Name’s sake. I thought of His words, and the sufferings He endured for me, and felt I had done wrong. For several days my mind was
darkened, and I had to ask my wife’s forgiveness, and often went down on my knees to God before my peace of mind returned.”
Morley, giving up Sunday trading, drinking, fighting, gambling, swearing, and beginning to go to chapel, astonished many who knew him, and hundreds laughed at the idea of Job becoming a Christian. When he heard this, he determined to take his stand in the Hay Market Place, at four o’clock on the Sunday afternoon, and tell all Sheffield what God had done for his soul. He gave notice of his intention, and thousands gathered to hear him. A few of his church friends stood round him, sang a hymn, “Jesus, the name to sinners dear,” then offered prayer that God would help Morley to confess Him before men. Morley stood up before the people, and though his eyes filled with tears, he, like Saul of Tarsus, spoke with boldness and great power. He told them of his evil doings, and how ashamed he was of his past wicked life; told them how he had believed on the Lord Jesus Christ and been saved; told them of the power of saving grace, inviting the most guilty in the vast assembly to try it; told them that it could reach and snatch from hell, either a dying thief, or a living thief, of which he was that day a witness.
Is that the man now confessing and preaching Christ to the multitude, the man who, a few months since, terrified whole streets, smashed his neighbours’ property, fought five policemen, and was bound and dragged almost naked at the tail of a cart to prison, roaring, blaspheming, foaming, gnashing his teeth, and covered with blood? Yes, and like the man in the tombs, out of whom Christ cast a legion of fiends, he is now at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. That is a memorable day in the history of Sheffield Market Place.
About this time John Unwin and several others were impressed with a fact that moved them to action. They knew, as all must know, that there are thousands in our country of hardworking, but drunken, reckless, careless characters, who neither fear God nor regard man; coarse, sensual, wicked, and imprudent;
never attending a place of worship, caring nothing for churches or chapels, despising the ministry, and desecrating the Lord’s day. It was thought that if menÂ—plain, earnest, and outspoken, and like themselves, but who had been converted and brought to see their folly,Â—could go through the country in twos and threes, and gather these men into halls, barns, and warehouses, or the open air, and tell them of the love of God through Christ, and warn them of the consequences of their wicked lives, many by such an instrumentality might be saved. Many such men were soon found;
Bibles, hymn books, and tracts were provided, and away they went on the Lord’s day from village to village, from town to town, and rougher men never went out, but many are now in heaven and on their way to heaven, who found salvation through their earnest preaching. Job Morley was one of this band, and hard did he
labour to undo the evils of his past life, by pointing the dog-fighters. dog-racers, turfmen, pigeon-flyers, gamblers, and drunkards to the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world. Thousands heard these men preach who never heard a regular minister, and seed was sown that eternity will make manifest.
My first acquaintance with Job Morley was on meeting with him in Yorkshire. I had an engagement at Batley, on Monday, February 18th, 1867. During the service in the afternoon, a well-dressed, bold, strong man came into the chapel and took his seat near the pulpit. He seemed hot with walking fast, and was evidently excited. After service the man followed me into the schoolroom where a public tea was provided. Taking hold of my hand he said, “I have come seventeen miles to hear and see you, and as we are strangers to each other, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Job Morley, better known as ‘Blackball’. I am a dealer in hens, cocks, pigeons, poll-parrots, ferrets, white mice, guinea-pigs, magpies, and monkeys. I have been the captain of eight gangs of thieves, I have been in prison fifty times, I have been a pest to the magistrates, a terror to the police, and a disgrace to humanity. Now, I am a child of God, a sinner saved by grace, happy in the love of Christ, and seven years old this day.” Then diving his hand into his pocket, he pulled out one hundred sovereigns, exclaiming, “Look here, sir; those are all bright teetotalers. Bless the Lord. Now, sir, I can hold up my head anywhere. I can also lift up my voice like a trumpet, and tell sinners that Christ, having saved ‘Blackball’, He can save to the uttermost. Bless His Holy Name.”
It was while at tea that day, and other interviews at his own house, and his stall in the market, also from a conversation I had with him at Wakefield, when he informed me his wife was dead, that I learnt his marvellous history. But now Job Morley is gone;
grace saved his soul, but the sins of his youth left their seeds in his body, producing premature decay; he was only fifty-one years of age. His last days were days of peace. When he saw the approach of his last enemy, he said, “I no more fear death than I should fear walking out of this room into the parlour; I am on the Rock, the Rock Christ Jesus.”
John Unwin, William Walton, William England, Arthur Culf, Joshua Rogers, his loving and tried friends, accompanied his body to the Burngreave Cemetery on December 19th, 1871. John Unwin preached his funeral sermon in Mount Tabor Chapel, on Sunday, January 6th, in this year, to a crowded audience, and now among the countless redeemed in glory, redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, is the once chief of sinners. Job Morley.